The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Quest for Whole Wheat Sandwich bread replacment.

Dough-No's picture

Quest for Whole Wheat Sandwich bread replacment.

Hey guys!!


   I have been baking bread 2 or 3 times a week for about 2 months now and am starting to have more successes than failures whichh is good.  I would like to start saving some money though.  In order to do that I need to be able to bake a whole wheat/whole grain sandwich bread that our 3 year old and his mother will eat. 


  I have made a few times and it has been ok.  Not quite as soft as the store bought stuff and does not keep as long (I need to keep it in the freezer and take out what I need).  I LOVE the bread it is still not a big hit with the rest of the house.

  My inexperience is stoping me from knowing what to change/add/subtract to get it to be close enough to the store bought bread for a 3 year old.

  Any suggestions would be appreciated.



Caltrain's picture

First, matching keeping qualities of store bought bread is going to be tough; store bought bread is crammed full of preservatives and other additives. Sugar and oil helps, but ultimately you'll probably have to make peace with the freezer.

Getting your loaf soft enough to match store bought bread, too, is a challenge for the same reason, albiet a manageable one. The quick fixes include substituting milk for water or adding more oil and sweeteners. Other additions that would work are oatmeal or potatos, but those require you to adjust water accordingly.

There are a few bread books that can give you good tips. Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book and Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads are two popular books on whole grain baking. Both focus on 100% whole grain bread, and are worth finding in a library.

One I would suggest is making a soaker. A soaker is a mix of whole wheat flour, water, and sometimes salt that's prepared and left to sit for some time. This is usually between 30 minutes and overnight. After soaking the rest of the ingredients are mixed in. Because the flour has time to fully absorb water plus let some enzyme activity start, you net a noticably softer, higher rising, and slightly sweeter loaf.

For the recipe at hand, I would recommended mixing 374g whole wheat flour with 1.5 cups of water of cool water (that's a little under 1:1 ratio by weight), and 3 tsp of salt. Cover tightly with a lid or saran wrap and let the mix sit overnight.

The next morning, proceed as the recipe suggests, omitting the ingredients you used in the soaker. That means using only 1 cup of water and no salt in the first step, and mix in the soaker in the second step.

I hope this makes sense. There's tons of advice to give, but I think using a soaker would be an excellent and easy first step.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Caltrain has listed just about the little things you can do to help your loaf. I might suggest that you substitue some instant potato flakes for the bread flour if you're not using mashed spuds. They're inexpensive and easily available.

If you haven't done so, get a sourdough starter going. I find a big difference in the quality of a loaf between sourdough and commercial yeast. The sourdough also extends shelf life. If you don't want to build a starter from scratch, use the search function and look up "Friends of Carl". There are several folks on TFL that have gone that route and are pleased with the results.

Dough-No's picture

Thnx guys!!!


   I already have the Whole Grain Breads book, I have no really looked through it yet (I bought that BBA and another at the same time). 

  I have a start that is about 5 days old right now, going good. So I will try that when it is ready.  I will indeed try a soaker next time as well.

  Both of you mentioned potatoes.  Are you saying to put mashed potatoes into my bread or just use the water? 

I often put oats in the breads I have been making, in fact that was one thing that I was thinking was causing the lack of softness.  I have been adding some flax seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, and bran to that bread and have not really been adjusting the flour or water.  It just occured to me that this was a mistake.

  Thanx again guys.



nbrinkles's picture

I'll be interested to see what you think of the recipe that you linked to in your original post without adding the flax and oats. I am new to breadmaking and I've made that sandwich bread recipe four times now and loved it every time. Even my teenager will eat it. I have made little changes every time to the recipe- substituting coconut oil for shortening, using King Arthur flour instead of my locally milled winter wheat flour, and added vital wheat gluten to a couple batches. They've all been pretty much the same though it may be slightly spongier with the coconut oil (doesn't affect taste) and my local flour. The biggest difference has been in technique- I stir the flour with a whisk and gently shake a small scoop it into a 1 cup measuring cup then leveling off the cup before adding it. I stir the flour between each cup and only add 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups of the total 5 cups of white flour the recipe calls for. Each time the dough rises I limit the rise time to the 1 1/2 hour first rise and the 1 1/4 hour second rise as the recipe recommends. This seems to improve the oven spring. Happy baking!

sparklebritches's picture

I've also been baking for a few months, started with the same mission to make super sandwich bread for my small children.

I recently added a chunk of starter to one of my latest loaf recipes that involve overnight fermenation.  It SEEMS that the loaf kept better for an extra day or two.  But maybe that was just in my head after reading so many times that sourdough keeps much better....


Laurel's Kitchen also mentions yogurt for soft, longer keeping bread.  I've had good luck with that and most recently subbing oat flour for part of my whole wheat.   Also, I became a little less fervent with my whole wheat love and use a bit more bread flour or white whole wheat.

Now I'm on a mission to make a longer keeping rustic lean type bread for sandwiches--that seems to be what everyone likes best around here now!

Janetcook's picture


Another plug for PR's WGB.  The master loaf and the sandwich loaf are favorites here and if you think a young child is picky - just wait until he/she hits his/her teens! 

My teens and husband gobble this down.  In fact my daughter loves the stuff raw.  She stands over me just waiting for a glob like a vulture and she is 17 years old...

To add extra softness try adding a teaspoon of powdered whey to soaker and biga when mixing.  If you don't have access to powdered whey (health food store) just use whey off of an open container of yogurt.


superfancy's picture

Peter Reinhart's Yeasted Multigrain Bread and Leavened Multigrain Bread (made with sourdough starter) from Crust & Crumb. Both are great for sandwiches and toast. If you follow the recipes exactly, the loaves turn out quite sweet. I reduce the amount of sugar and honey and it doesn't affect the final product much.

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

You might try making some bread in some different forms - soft bread sticks or pretzels, garlic bread with cheese.  Put out some toppings your child likes and let him/her choose some to put on. Help your child make longish 'snakes' and roll them up into snails, etc.  Have some fun together : )

Judicious use of potato flour or mashed potato, cooked grain, lecithin, soakers, and autolyse (maybe not all at once!) are good friends when making soft whole grain breads.

Mary Clare in MO

rayc's picture

I have been baking whole wheat sandwich bread regularly for the past 18 months using Mike Avery's 100% whole wheat formula that is on his website  Mike is a fellow TFL participant.

My wife likes it along with the neighbors and a big portion of southern Deschutes County.  Mike gives you detailed instructions and his site contains a wealth of information on baking with sourdough and how to make a soft whole wheat sandwich bread.

If you don't have a starter it's simple to make one, using Debra Wink's pineapple starter process which is on this website.

Good Luck with your baking.




Dough-No's picture


   Thanx guys!!  I have lots to try and my next few loaves!!  Mike Avery's website is great!  Thanx for that one.



Dough-No's picture

so for this week's sandwich loaves I added some milk instead of all the water.  I added just a very small pinch of cinnamon (not sure why but it turned out great), and used half honey, half brown sugar. I meant to use a soaker as mentioned but it slipped my mind at the last minute. The loaves tasted the best, but they are falling apart a little this time.

Thanx for all the great tips i will get it eventually!!


Janetcook's picture

Just reminded me of what I do too.  To the PR basic recipes I also add cinnamon - about 2 tsp per loaf, and raisins - about 3/4ths a cup...I just eyeball it.  I cut down on the honey amt. recommended by him due to the raisins.  My kids love the cinnamon raisin taste so I use it a lot in his recipes so that they are getting a variety of grains and ingredients..

THe recipes they like best are the sprouted grain loaf, straun loaf, challah loaf, bagels, master loaf and the Santa Lucia buns.  All can be done with yeast or a sourdough starter which I like to use too.

Have fun experimenting  :-)